Fishing Cold Water Plastics,Remember Dead-Sticking

April 8th, 2010

Most bass tournament anglers agree soft plastic lures like worms and grubs are so effective because of their life-like swimming, shaking, and shimmering actions, but veteran Yamaha Pro Luke Clausen reminds fishermen that worms also work when they’re dead, too.

“The term we use is dead-sticking,” laughs Clausen, winner of both the FLW® Forrest Wood Cup and the Bassmaster® Classic, “and it’s a presentation that often works when fish are not biting very aggressively.

“Basically, instead of hopping your lure to create multiple falls, or swimming it through cover, dead-sticking means just letting your worm lie motionless on the bottom after your cast, and waiting for a bass to come to it.”

The question, of course, is how long to wait before retrieving your lure for another cast, and for this Clausen doesn’t have an absolute answer.

“I’ve fished tournaments when the water was cold and you had to dead-stick your worm for 20 to 30 seconds, and other events where eight to 10 seconds was enough,” explains the Yamaha Pro. “If you feel confident bass are present where you’re fishing, then the best approach is to dead-stick your lure longer and longer until a bass finally picks it up.”

Dead-sticking can be a difficult technique to use, adds Clausen, because so much time is simply spent waiting, rather than casting and reeling.  Strikes are seldom felt, and the first indication a bass has picked up your lure is when you see your line begin to move through the water.

“Always remember the fish know your lure is there,” he emphasizes. “They hear your worm the moment it touches the water, and from examples I’ve seen in aquariums, bass will swim to the lure and watch it fall.  Gradually, they’ll move in closer and closer as it rests on the bottom, and finally, one will just swim down and pick it up.”

“Dead-sticking is particularly effective in colder water but it can be a productive presentation on any lake where bass receive unusually heavy fishing pressure and become accustomed to seeing a lot of lures. They’re both cautious and suspicious, and dead-sticking is certainly a non-aggressive presentation.”

The dead-sticking technique can be used anywhere, too, notes Clausen, including around rocks and riprap, beside boat dock pilings, or along the edges of grasslines. Any size worm can be used; sometimes trophy bass fishermen dead-stick 10 and 12-inch plastic worms in places they think a really big fish may live.

To make their worms look even more natural, the lures are often fished weightless or with very light sinkers, and on lighter fluorocarbon lines. Thus, when they are falling, the worms tend to glide rather than sink right to the bottom.

“Overall, dead-sticking nearly always refers to soft plastic worms,” concludes the Yamaha angler, “but actually, any lure can be fished this way, even floating surface lures. Dead-sticking just means not moving your lure after it enters the water. Smallmouth bass are famous for hitting small topwater plugs after they’ve been sitting motionless for 10 or 15 seconds, and big swim baits are sometimes allowed to float on the surface over deeper structure for 10 minutes or longer.

“It’s definitely a technique to remember.”

Tournament Pro Clark Reehm Likes Floating Jerkbaits For Cold Water Bass

April 8th, 2010

Of all the lures a bass fishermen can try when he’s fishing for cold water bass, floating jerkbaits don’t get a lot of attention. That’s fine, laughs Yamaha Pro Clark Reehm, who uses them all winter.

“Floating jerkbaits bring the best results when you use them around and over submerged vegetation, stumps, cypress trees, or brush in shallow water,” acknowledges Reehm, “so perhaps that’s why many anglers don’t use them. Fishermen normally move to deep water in winter, but remember, it’s the cover, and particularly vegetation, that keeps bass shallow on many lakes and rivers.

“A floating jerkbait has an added advantage over normal crankbaits because it rarely gets snagged.  Whenever you feel the lure hit cover or grass, you can stop reeling and it will float to the surface.”

Jerkbaits are available in a wide variety of sizes and models by numerous manufacturers. They’re characterized by a long, narrow cigar-like body profile, and are normally fished by jerking or twitching the rod, which causes them to dart erratically side to side.  Floating and sinking jerkbaits are offered, as well as models that dive to different depths.

“My favorite depth to use a jerkbait this time of year is down to about five feet,” says Reehm, “and if I can find old lily pad stems or hydrilla at that depth, I’ll work the water thoroughly with different retrieves because bass will come up out of the vegetation to hit these lures. The outside edges of vegetation and brush lines are also excellent places to try.”

The Yamaha Pro’s two favorite retrieves are either a jerk-jerk-pause, during which the lure floats to the surface during the pause; or a constant jerking and reeling retrieve that keeps the lure darting just under the surface. Reehm believes bass hit the lure because these retrieves trigger both feeding and reaction strikes.

“A floating jerkbait works anywhere you can find shallow vegetation,” he continues, “and you can fish it throughout the winter and early spring months.  If you need to, you can slow down your retrieve and make your pauses longer because the lure won’t sink if you stop reeling, or you can speed up your retrieve but still keep the lure running shallow.”

Reehm keeps his color choices simple, too. He prefers a gold body/black back model on overcast days, and a chrome/black back lure on clear days. Because he’s fishing shallow water, he also prefers either heavy monofilament line or braid, neither of which sinks, as does fluorocarbon.

“Using floating jerkbaits this time of year does not get much attention because it seems to go totally against the norm,” the Yamaha Pro concludes, “but I’ve fished this technique long enough, and with enough success, for it to become one of my favorite cold water presentations.

“I keep several of the lures tied on my rods the entire winter.”

Hot Hole Fishing 101

April 8th, 2010

By Captain Paul Rose

December right thru January can mean chilly water temps and even cold winter weather spells for fisherman in the Southeast. With the right strategy you can leave the duck blind or deer stand for a day of hot fishing. Warm water discharges resulting from electricity generation on lakes such as Wylie and Norman, amongst others; attract bait like ants to a lollipop. Bait can be shad, herring or white perch all of which are on the grocery list for hungry stripers, spotted and largemouth bass. Savvy anglers follow the bait to get in on the bite.

Despite the overwhelming concentration of bait and game fish, you still need to follow a few tips to keep the rod bent consistently. Captain Jonathan Taylor is on Lake Norman daily and has logbooks from years of data collection, which he uses to pinpoint day-to-day patterns to find the fish. Anglers need that raw data but have to relate it to contour lines, depths, current and wind patterns. It goes without saying that good electronics and charts are step 1.

As the water from Norman’s two discharge outlets dissipate into the main lake, wind and current can pinpoint what areas of the lake to fish. Subtle temperature changes can have huge effects. Surface temps can be in the mid-fifties over much of the lake yet a few creeks and channels may be noticeably higher.

Consistent winter creeks such as Mountain, Davidson and Ramsey are good bets to start. These are popular fishing destinations, so pressure can be high on these creeks – their productivity is no big secret these days. Guides and thoughtful anglers always seems to have a few, lesser-known spots where heavy traffic is not such a big factor.

Capt. Taylor credits his success to his meticulous method of deploying his rods and the resulting bait spread. Through trail and error, his system limits tangles, covers the entire water column, and uses a variety of offerings. The method works for catching stripers on any lake and he will gladly share it with you. The rods go out and come in on a clock system allowing 6 or more deployments and pick-ups in very quickly when the sonar unit sounds.

Spreads include planar boards, quick-release bobbins, down lining with Carolina rigs and free lining systems. Once the action starts, anglers can even jig with spoons and plastic baits to directly fill the hard hits of feeding stripers.

Being ready for striper action cannot be stressed enough. The night before your trip is the time to rig, whether you’re the guide or the weekend warrior, not when the fish finder is flashing large arches of bait across the screen.

Once the spread is out, slow trolling is the key, adjusting speeds from .5 mph to 2 mph to raise and drop baits as fish appear on the electronics. Adjusting speeds also allows for adjustments to changing water depths, humps and points. With proper speed changes, baits will rise or fall in the water column. Productive baits are trout, blueback herring and shad on 1/0 hooks. Great care should be used to keep baits frisky and lively. When working spreads remember: structure holds bait and bait holds stripers.

One big misnomer is the term hot-hole, which implies a stationary area. As touched on earlier, conditions can “move” the hot-hole effect miles from the discharge areas. Granted, the immediate discharge areas always have fish, but they’re smaller more often than not. Still great fun though.
Those definitive temperature edges away from the main discharge are the prime spots for the best fish. Top veteran anglers and guides fish these edges, sometimes with multiple drifts.

A second misnomer is chasing birds. It would be great to find big schooling stripers crashing bait each time you went out, but the fact is it’s the “right time, right place scenario” that is just not that common.

On Norman, try the northeast sometime for that chaos. One reason is that newer forage baits, besides the traditional shad, have been introduced on the lake. They tend to stay down in the water column and will keep the stripers down. You should still be aware of what’s happening on the water, just don’t spend the whole day looking for birds.
The best days for fishing are not Carolina blue sky, warm sunny days. If it’s overcast, dreary and cold – head out. Remember to take precautions to stay warm and dry. Hypothermia is real and winter winds can make the lake quite rough.

Capt. Taylor operates a pilot boat with ample shelter, provides a very smooth ride and covered seating for protection yet features a large open deck to move around on and fight fish. First mate Traveler, a golden retriever with a nose for fish, readily poses with anglers and their catch. Bring him a treat for me.

Captain Paul Rose is a professional fishing guide. For more information about Capt. Paul and his adventures, visit